Ireland Votes To Lift Its Abortion Ban, Exit Polls Show

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Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking Saturday before official results were announced, said it appeared that voters chose to liberalize Ireland's strict laws on abortion - only allowed when a woman's life is at risk - by a more than two-to-one margin.

There was no mention of the referendum during the sermon at St Mary's Pro Cathedral, but it was weighing heavily on the minds of some worshippers as they left the Mass in central Dublin.

In 2012, the death of 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar - who died from miscarriage complications after being denied an abortion in the country - became a catalyst for the Irish abortion rights movement. It was a comprehensive verdict, with 66.4% voting in favour of the amendment.

Andanappa Yalagi read from a one-page letter as his wife Mahadevi sat on a sofa beside him with a photo of Savita, who had moved with her husband Praveen to Ireland in 2008.

"A vote for the freedom to choose, a vote for women's rights, a vote for women's control over their bodies, a vote for women's health & safety, a vote towards equality", she proudly said.

"They felt equal to the rest of the world, that they could get a share of the luxuries of life", he said.

The once-mighty Catholic Church took a back seat throughout the campaign. "It's hard for the church to have credibility". Since 1981 the number of practicing Catholics have dropped by around 15 percent.

Amnesty International calls the victory a "momentous win for women's rights" that "marks the beginning of a new Ireland".

The landmark vote saw thousands of Irish citizens working overseas fly home to cast their vote, as well as a massive social media campaign and support from Irish celebrities like Saoirse Ronan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Liam Neeson speaking out to repeal the amendment.

He felt alienated by the campaign: "It's extraordinary the way the campaign focused so much on 'me, me, me, ' the rights of the mother, and very little mention of the unborn child".

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The decision would seek to take some of the pressure off families between now and new legislation overturning the ban, which is expected to pass by the end of the year.

Newspapers reflected on the historic vote.

The current situation "does feel anomalous", she told ITV's Peston on Sunday. Yearly, 1,000 Irish women have been traveling to England for an abortion.

The vote will remove a 1983 amendment that required Irish authorities to defend the lives of a woman and a fetus equally on nearly all abortions.

Since 1983, around 170,000 Irish women have gone overseas for terminations.

The nationwide rejection of the amendment represented a growing tolerance on social issues in the traditionally Roman Catholic country.

He said the result means that "we are living in a new time and a changed culture for Ireland".

"We're really a tiny place, there's not that many of us and we can only shout loud now".

While the Irish Government plans to bring in legislation by the end of the year, the referendum result will not affect Northern Ireland, where cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality are not considered grounds for a legal termination.

But Cannon also said he respected the results of the referendum and would "vote to implement the will of our people, as expressed today". The strongest backing came from younger voters - the exit poll said the only age group in which a majority voted "no" were voters who are 65 or older.

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